Thursday, April 14, 2016

Hunting Online for Vintage Bikes/Parts

Hunting Online for Vintage Bikes/Parts

Those of us with a penchant for vintage bikes (heck, vintage anything) can’t generally just wander into our favorite local store or check out Amazon for most of the stuff we want, and wind up spending an inordinate amount of time searching the net for interesting bits. There isn’t just one place to go to find what we are looking for. Bikes and parts are scattered all over the Internet as well as at local swap meets, auctions (both online and off), and at brick-and-mortar shops. I try below to identify (mostly online) places I hunt and techniques I use in my search for parts to complete the current project or the next project (which I really never need). I don't claim to be an expert. These are just sites and tools I've discovered.

Places to search

There are an amazing number of places on the Internet to search for vintage bikes and parts. Here are the ones I know about which have a reasonable chance of yielding some useful hits. I’m sure there are more. As you get more and more into hunting for that unique bike or obscure part to complete your tout Mavic group, you will likely wind up searching sites which are not in your native language. You likely have to rely on Google Translate, but that won’t be perfect (for example, it will translate your use of the brand name “Galli” into “Rooster” when searching Italian sites). You probably want to track down a copy of the multilingual bicycle parts guide found in Sutherland’s Handbook for Bicycle Mechanics. (Actually, if you don’t have it, you want your own copy of this tome.) I have a 3rd edition. I’m not sure if the latest editions have the translator, but they probably do.

Here’s what I know about (let me know about others):

Search techniques/tools

With all those sources (and more), there is no way you can follow everything. Trust me, I’ve tried. Ask my wife how much time I spend staring at my phone. Over the past few years, I have tried all sorts of techniques, including following specific searches or sellers on eBay, or using specialty search sites like Searchdome (e.g., “show me auctions for Brooks saddles with no bids and less than an hour remaining”). While I still rely on specific searches to drill down into a particular site’s offerings, I’ve increasingly turned to RSS feeds as my preferred way to aggregate those search results into a single interface.

RSS Feeds

After a long time picking through emails from eBay, Searchdome, and various bike forums, I started to lament the fact that results from different sources were formatted differently, my inbox was inundated by extra email I sometimes wanted to just ignore (for awhile), and some non-email possibilities required me to return to specific websites from time-to-time (causing me to sometimes miss opportunities). About this time, Google dumped their Reader product (a rather snazzy RSS feed reader), which I’d been using as my browser home page. Casting about for a replacement, I settled on Inoreader. It’s not as fancy as Google Reader was, but it gets the job done.

The key to making this work is to find RSS feeds for specific pages and search queries. Sometimes it’s not immediately obvious, but many (though, unfortunately, not all) sites with search facilities (eBay, Craigslist, bikeforums, etc) support RSS feeds. RSS feeds can be for large groups or specific queries.

Here’s an example of how I set up an eBay search in Inoreader. Create an eBay query for, say, “Schwinn Paramount,” in the Cycling category, sorted by time newly listed. This last bit is important! The default sort order in eBay is by “Best Match.” Since you want to see new auctions as they are listed, you want to sort by “Time: newly listed,” otherwise you might see that spectacular 1950’s Cinelli stem badge you’ve been searching for just as (or just after) the auction completes.

Now, copy that URL in your browser, head on over to your Inoreader tab, and paste it into the search form in the upper left corner.


Note the “Found feeds.” That means Inoreader found an RSS feed associated with that URL. Hit RETURN. You have now set up an RSS feed for Schwinn Paramounts on eBay:


Inoreader will periodically fetch the RSS for that query and give you the opportunity display the updated list of auctions. This works for bikeforums, Velocipede Salon, Reddit, Kijiji, and many other sites.

Inoreader often knows how to modify a site’s URLs to get it to return RSS format, so you just need to enter the desired URL. You generally don't need to tweak the URL yourself to get the website to spit out RSS instead of normal HTML. If not, you can usually poke around and find an RSS feed icon. Just copy the link associated with that icon and paste it into Inoreader’s search box.

Other References

Here are some other external references which people have provided.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Winter Break

I just returned from a week in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I heartily recommend it to anyone in need of a week in a wintertime approximation of paradise. While we have stayed in several places up and down the Bay of Banderas over the years, this time Ellen and I stayed at the Sheraton Buganvilias where her mom has a time share.


Not so much:
  • Blue Shrimp, Puerto Vallarta

Bike Ride

The highlight of the trip for me had to be the trip to Tepic to visit George Otis, one of my online bike buddies on the Classic Rendezvous Google Group and the Classic & Vintage forum on George has a number of very nice bikes (he rode a lovely restored Motobecane Le Champion) and loaned me a recently acquired mid-70s RIH, for a nice ride through the Nayarit countryside. From one of his pre-ride emails: "The route is a nice mix of mountains, coast, pine forest, tropical jungle, beaches, agricultural lands, etc." 

George was extremely hospitable. Aside from the actual ride, he figured out the buses for me (times, locations, costs) and responded to all my questions about the sometimes tenuous situation for Americans in Mexico. (Read the State Department alerts if you're curious.) He also insisted on feeding me breakfast before we set off, complete with local yogurt and homemade passion fruit juice. After breakfast, we spent a few minutes adjusting the bike he loaned me. Then we were off.

George lives just to the east of the dormant San Juan volcano.

Our route out Federal Hwy 76 took us around the volcano (more-or-less northwest then southwest). Tepic is around 3100 ft elevation (3149 according to MapMyRide). The route initially took us up a gradual grade. MMR tells me we topped out at 3727 feet, just before we reached the village of Guayabitos. From there, it was almost all downhill to the coast. We turned off Hwy 76 at Hwy 12, just before reaching Miramar on the coast, at an elevation of 110 feet. Aside from small climbs out of little villages tucked into ravines along the way, that represented almost 21 miles downhill. Boy, were my arms tired at the bottom! Two days later, my triceps were still sore. We did stop in a little village, Jalcocotán, where I bought some dried bananas. They are nothing more than peeled bananas which have been dried in the sun. I liked them, but wasn't able to get Ellen to try them.

Not far from the little village of Playa Platanitos, where we stopped for lunch, we stopped at a

little shrine to the Blessed Virgin, where pictures of our bikes seemed in order. I'm not sure the stop did us much good, as I got a flat tire a bit further down the road. George mentioned that we didn't get hit by
any cars. Maybe she only worries about the big stuff.

The short street down to Playa Platanitos was steep and heavily cobbled. Staying upright was quite a challenge. Just about the only thing in the village were four little open air restaurants situated side-by-side on the beach. George
told me the only activity they get is on the weekends when farmers from the surrounding area come into "town." We were the only customers in the restaurant he chose. It was quite nice. I had fish, of course. On the way back out, the cobbles got us, and we both wound up walking the last little bit up to the highway.

On the final stretch to Las Varas (about 17 miles) we had a nice tailwind. We rode at a conversational pace though, so I'm sure it took well over an hour. We got to the main intersection (Hwy 12 and Hwy 200) with about 30 minutes of sunlight left. I waited for about five minutes for a bus back to Puerto Vallarta, while George headed up the hill on a bus headed to Tepic with the two bikes stored in the luggage bay.

I had a great time. It was wonderful to meet another Classic Rendezvous contact. George said it was his first opportunity to meet any of his online bike buddies, and aside from a little guided tour on rental bikes in Montreal a few years ago, it was my first opportunity to actually ride a bike outside the USA. I talked up the Dairyland Dare. George is originally from Minnesota (his parents still live there), so perhaps we can twist his arm to take a detour while visiting them next summer. That way he'd be able to meet a few other people from CR and the C&V crowd on

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Pushing Back on Misuse of the word Accident

I was reminded in an email thread discussing Jan Heine's recent crash in Japan about the frequently inappropriate use of the word "accident" to describe most crashes where motor vehicles hit cyclists and pedestrians (and probably fixed objects and other motor vehicles). Lynne Cooney wrote:
Again, this was not an accident, it was a negligent driver.  Continuing to call these crashes "accidents" implies that they are unavoidable.
Here's the beginning of the entry for "accident" on Wikipedia (emphasis mine):
An accident is an undesirable incidental and unplanned event that could have been prevented had circumstances leading up to the accident been recognized, and acted upon, prior to its occurrence. Most scientists who study unintentional injury avoid using the term "accident" and focus on factors that increase risk of severe injury and that reduce injury incidence and severity (Robertson, 2015).
Lynne also provided me a link to a recent opinion piece in Wired, which I think is worthwhile reading.

The opportunity exists for a small amount of advocacy.  Anytime you see the word "accident" incorrectly used in a report about a motor vehicle crash, here are a few things you can do to draw attention to the incorrect usage, yet not take much of your time:

  • If the website provides for comments, add a comment to the article.
  • If contact information for the author is available, tweet, post, or send an email.
  • If there is a public editor or ombudsman (for instance, the NY Times has a public editor), send that person an email.

Cook up a short, polite form letter (extremely short if you are a Twitter-holic) and save it on your computer. Whenever you see the word "accident" used inappropriately to describe crashes involving motor vehicles, paste your form letter into your email/tweet/comment. On social media, include the hashtag #CrashNotAccident. Maybe reporters and news outlets will start to get the message and change their usage.

Do you already do this? Let me know in the comments. If you have a boilerplate response you use, feel free to include that as well.

Monday, November 09, 2015


I think there is a noise everybody makes without thinking when their lower level neural circuits determine that they are suddenly at great risk of injury. For me, it's "Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!". Not two or four "whoas," three. It's unconscious, erupting before you even form the thought that you are in trouble. I guess that comes from the fast circuits Daniel Kahneman wrote about in Thinking Fast and Slow. If I am not in as much immediate danger, my higher cortical functions take over, resulting in a well-formed sentence which often includes one or two four-letter words.

Today, I got doored. It happened so quickly I didn't even have time to utter my fast phrase. As I was falling I ever-so-briefly formed an image of laying down, as I usually sleep on my left side, which was the side about to contact the pavement. Very weird. I'll be fine, though now about nine hours after the incident, I do have some aches and pains. I might well be off the bike for a couple days. My bike sustained a few scuffs as well - including to my Brooks Pro :-( - but the big parts all seem fine. I guess there is an advantage (for the bike) that the rider is a skosh wider than the bike. I think I was pretty lucky, all things considered.

The after-incident was kind of weird as well. Obviously, the driver finished getting out of her car, and asked if I was okay. There was also a guy over on the sidewalk who kept asking, "Are you okay?" Sort of like Sheldon Cooper on Big Bang Theory and his "knock-knock-knock, Penny?" bit, only this guy wasn't going to stop asking if I was okay until I said something. So, after about his eighth repetition, I said something just to shut him up. I think he was in an infinite loop. After getting up, I examined my bike, concluded everything looked fine, certainly well enough to ride home, then exchanged phone numbers with the driver, so I could contact her later if I had problems.

The final icing on the cake was applied as I was getting back on my bike. The guy who just a moment before was repetitiously concerned that I was okay, started giving me a hard time for not chatting up the driver. She was kind of a hottie. Honestly, that was the last thing on my mind. I am a happily married man, and have been for 34 years. Hotties haven't been on the menu (not even the menu of my impossible dreams) for a great long while.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Don't Expect Perfection

Chicago has has an excellent history of bike-friendly mayors. Richard M. Daley was responsible for much of our cycling infrastructure. His successor, Rahm Emanuel has built aggressively on Mayor Daley's legacy. In fact, Richard J. Daley was responsible for designating the Lakefront Trail as a bike path, in 1963!

LFT is one of the most heavily trafficked multi-use paths around. Strava has a nice little interactive heatmap which you can use to identify heavily used and timed routes. As you can see, LFT is well used both by cyclists:

and runners:

The work to straighten out LFT at Fullerton Avenue is about complete. Yesterday, I stopped at the construction site entrance and spoke with Catrina, the traffic coordinator. She said the upgraded path should be open soon.

We got into a short discussion, during which she asked, "are you one of those speeders?" I knew what she meant by the term, and didn't feel like it necessarily fit me. I explained, rather vaguely, that I do ride fast when the coast is clear, and waved my hand generally toward the north. She said she has seen a number of accidents involving bikes at that location. The detour is a bit problematic, involving a chicane around the Theater on the Lake, narrowing of the path, and obstruction of any remaining sight lines by the green fabric on the chain link fence used to block prying eyes from the construction site.

Feeling like I hadn't explained myself very well, I started thinking about why me riding fast "up north" wasn't the same as the Lakefront Lances bombing through the detour around the construction zone. I've written about right-of-way before. I try to ride by that rule: never steal someone else's right-of-way. Still, that one rule doesn't totally explain how I try to ride, or how I think others should ride (or drive). I don't think it explains all the collisions Catrina has seen either.

I was missing something. Yesterday, while mulling over the conversation, it came to me: don't expect perfection. Simply put, when you ride too fast for conditions, you are expecting perfection from yourself and from others around you. If you buzz through congestion on the trail at 20mph, you leave no margin for error. You can't afford to make a mistake. Nor can the runner who has just reached her turn-around point and wants to head home and get ready for work. Nor can the bike mechanic who replaced your brake cables last week. Nor can the squirrel off the path being chased by the dog running off-leash. Nor, for that matter, can the dog. You implicitly expect perfection in every one of these small interactions.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons I don't enjoy group rides as much as I might. I like going faster than I normally would riding solo, and I like the common purpose and camaraderie of the people I ride with. I am a bit skeptical of my own expertise, which makes me nervous riding in a pace line. In addition, I don't want my riding buddies to have to pay for the mistakes I learn as I gain proficiency.

So, my informal cycling rule book now has two simple rules:
  • Don't steal the right-of-way.
  • Don't expect perfection.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Daylight, Daylight, Where For Art Thou?

So, the clocks fell back again last night. At least here in the US of A. I'm sure there are plenty of other posts on the subject (here's one which caught my eye), but I will add one more.

I have a hard enough time sleeping. I don't need extra, artificial, impediments to my already faulty circadian rhythms. This morning, after the overnight time change, I wound up getting up shortly after 4am (5 o'clock would have been bad enough). On a Sunday, for chrissakes!

Starting tomorrow, I can look forward to several months where I ride my bike to and from work in pretty much complete darkness. While nighttime riding is fun on occasion, I'm sure my risk of injury roughly doubles when I go from riding one way in darkness to two. And it probably adds a little bit to my lovely wife's stress to know I'm out there pedaling in darkness. Note to other cycling commuters: make sure your lights are fully charged before heading off to work tomorrow morning.

I work at a trading firm which (like almost all others) trades markets worldwide. The change from Daylight to Standard time, especially now that Europe and the US don't change at the same time, is annoying, at best. Given the differing change dates here and on the continent, we now have four points where problems can arise, two in the spring, two in the fall. To try and remain in sync with American traders, some overseas exchanges actually change their open and close times so we don't see a change relative to our clock! I'm sure there are other industries where the Spring and Fall clock rituals are more problematic (and attempts at adaptation even more absurd).

Permanent DST sounds like an excellent idea to me. Can we please stop messing with the clocks?

Friday, October 30, 2015

The God of Salt Can be an Angry God

I ride an old Trek set up as a fixed gear much of the time, and it's pretty much my full-time winter ride.  (I have a couple other bikes I don't really mind sacrificing to the God of Salt, but I don't ride them much.) The pedals on the Trek have been complaining recently (creaking, mostly), so I figured it was time to service them.

I had another set of pedals ready to install, so this morning I went to do the swap.  Oops.  Not really turning.  I managed to get the drive side pedal off, and noticed some corrosion on the pedal threads.  Good old bimetallic electrochemistry at work, aided and abetted by the God of Salt.  On the non-drive side, I could barely get the pedal to budge.  I shot it with a bit of Liquid Wrench, greased the drive side pedal, reinstalled it, then rode to work.

On the NDS, the shoulder that normally butts up against the crank arm is now moved back just a skosh from the face of the crank arm.  Under normal circumstances, much (most? all?) of the force is transmitted between the pedal and the crank through that interface.  I hope the Liquid Wrench and easy pedaling will free up the threads a bit so I can remove the pedal this evening without applying heat.  Still, you should take advantage of my mistake (I should have been checking all steel/aluminum interfaces periodically, especially on a bike that sees winter's road salt - shame on me), and check your pedals, seatpost, and stem before they become permanent fixtures on your bike.